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The Ecological Staircase

EASY 81 reviews

The Ecological Staircase is a 5.1 mile out and back trail located near Fort Bragg, California that features a great forest setting and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, trail running, and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 5.1 miles Elevation Gain: 321 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

hiking

nature trips

walking

running

forest

Ecological Staircase showcases gradual soil leeching, culminating in the Pygymy Pines, six foot tall trees that are hundreds of years old. Guided tours are sparsely available. Note: Dogs are only allowed on the west side of highway 1 between the parking lot and the coast. Dogs are not allowed to the east of highway 1.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful hike! I would highly recommend it if you’re in the area and have a few hours. We hiked the whole way out to the ocean bluffs instead of following the shorter coastal loop. It was a foggy Sunday morning, which made for some ominous ocean views. So we ended up with a 6 mile hike. I didn’t have any issues with the trail being overgrown as others have mentioned, so perhaps it has been cleaned up recently. I thought it was well maintained considering how much vegetation there is along the way. And there was only one place where I got off the trail on the west side of highway 1 by the big trees, but i was able to follow the track to get back on course. There are also a couple of unmarked forks along the way to the redwoods, but if you look at the all trails track it’s pretty easy to pick the right path. The “dog friendly” description is a little misleading. Technically dogs are only allowed on the west side of highway 1 between the parking lot and the coast. Dogs are not allowed to the east of highway 1, although I passed a man with his dog on leash so perhaps it’s not strictly enforced. Watch your step as you hike from highway one to the Pygmy forest. I saw a lot of banana slugs along the way. And apparently horse riders use parts of this trail, so watch your step for that too.

hiking
1 month ago

Very interesting to see the change in vegetation as you progress. Watch carefully for small signage - we missed one marker and ended up much further into the forest than we planned.

hiking
2 months ago

We didn’t make it that far due to the trail being overgrown with various plants including poison oak. It is promising but needs a shrub cutter to go through.

hiking
3 months ago

Awesome hike with explanations of different vegetation types + D

hiking
3 months ago

cute nature trail with many interpretations boards. Worth it just to see the Pygmy Forest.

hiking
4 months ago

The trail is a bit overgrown so I’d recommend wearing long sleeves completely. If it was well-maintained, this would be a must hike when in the area

hiking
bridge out
muddy
7 months ago

hiking
7 months ago

This trail is pretty cool- you go from ocean bluffs, to old Pygmy forests, swamp, boardwalk, hidden beach and dense forest. A good one if you are in the area. Easy and dog friendly. We had the beach to ourselves, what a treat!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Very sweet little trail that takes you through several different plant communities we enjoyed the walk

Monday, July 02, 2018

Super easy and accessible trail. Gorgeous views and well worth the hike.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Truly the most interesting nature trail hike I have ever been on. It trail starts at coastal bluffs, climbs through beautify evergreen & redwood forests, & ends in an intriguing Pygmy Forest. Coast Rhododendron & wildflower blooms are astounding. Please watch my video of this hike at

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

lovely trail, especially on an overcast day. there were no trail guides at the parking lot, a shame since it's interesting to learn about the geology, ecosystems, and botany you're passing through. pay attention to your route so you can find your way back...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Variety of beautiful views, beach, tropical, soaring redwoods and the open Pygmy forest at the top. Trail a little confusing at times and that added a little adventure and fun.

walking
Monday, February 19, 2018

Very pleasant walking path, it get a bit close to the cliff edge in some spots but you can get off the trail to walk a little further from the edge.

hiking
Sunday, February 18, 2018

pretty trail along beach and redwoods finished at around 6 miles

Sunday, July 30, 2017

hi! great looking trail.

hiking
Sunday, April 23, 2017

Super easy hike, right from our campsite at Jug Handle Creek Farm to the ocean.

hiking
Thursday, December 29, 2016

A stunning hike. If you are not familiar with the area grab one of the informational pamphlets and take yourself on a tour! I did the entire trail which includes the coastal path. You do not want to miss that part!

hiking
Monday, July 18, 2016

This is a beautiful trail. Well kept up. It is pretty level the whole way until you head down to the ocean. Very accessible for children young and old (not stroller accessible for the most part). Ok to take you dog on leash only unless signs state otherwise. You'll love it!

hiking
Sunday, June 26, 2016

Beautiful, secluded beach perfect for off the leash fun with a pup

bird watching
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Beautiful! An easy trail that showcases the many micro climate ecologies of the Mendocino coast

Monday, August 31, 2015

Easy walk/hike. Make sure you pick up the pamphlet that takes you through the ecological staircase. There are markers along the way.

hiking
Friday, October 03, 2014

I run this trail monthly. I enjoy encountering hikers. It's 7 ish miles round trip from the parking lot through the staircase to Mitchell Creek gate and back again. You know, up one way means fun all the way back!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Great trail through the woods and around the ocean.

nature trips
Monday, January 14, 2013

As others have said an impressive range of environments from sea shore, through Shore pine and cypress, redwoods and firs to pigmy forest. I have hiked portions of this for the last two years because it can be accessed from Mitchell Creek Rd. and Gibney Ln as well as from the actual park. In Oct. through December it is a great place to see a wide variety of mushrooms. It is a very easy trail, fairly well marked and a little too busy for me. I prefer a little more solitude.

hiking
Thursday, September 13, 2012

This trail is one of the best I've ever hiked. It has an amazing variety of environments: make sure not to miss the extra loop at the beginning, it leads you through a forest of trees bent by the wind. The pygmy forest is very impressive.

hiking
14 days ago

hiking
14 days ago

hiking
16 days ago

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